Dayton area picked for pilot project to serve veterans

Veterans Moving Forward will bring more than 80 organizations together Tuesday.

The Dayton region is one of 50 communities nationwide chosen by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in a pilot project to connect dozens of service organizations to better meet the needs of veterans, organizers say.

The Greater Miami Valley myVeteran Community initiative, the result of the collaboration, has launched Veterans Moving Forward, a gathering bringing more than 80 organizations together from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Wright State University Student Union’s Apollo Room.

“One of the things we realized very quickly was we needed a way to connect veterans regularly” to services, said Cassie B. Barlow, one of the leaders of the effort and a past installation commander at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

Today, many veterans find out about services through word of mouth, she said. By this fall, organizers hope to add a VetsLink phone hotline to the existing 2-1-1 HelpLink operated by the United Way of Greater Dayton.

“That improves the ability of veterans to find services in our region just exponentially,” she said.

United Way of Greater Dayton has said it needs about a quarter of a million dollars to launch VetsLink.

The tip line would compile a list of services and contacts for dozens of organizations. A 23-county region in western Ohio counts nearly 180,000 veterans, with 43,200 in Montgomery County alone.

Anecdotal research showed “a really, really big need” for a veterans tip line, J. Thomas Maultsby, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Dayton, said in a recent interview.

“Some of the testimonies that came back said, for example, ‘If I’d known about this, my husband and I may not be divorced today,’ or ‘If we had known (we’d) get connected because we’d been trying, my husband would not have committed suicide over his PTSD,’” Maultsby said.

If funding is in hand, the goal is to launch the hotline on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

As a pilot site for the myVeteran Community initiative, what works could be duplicated at other sites across the country, according to Dayton VA Medical Center spokesman Ted Froats.

The Regional Transportation Authority in Dayton will provide free rides to the Wright State event Tuesday for veterans with an active military or retired military ID card or a DD Form 214 discharge form, according to RTA spokesman Frank Ecklar. Greene CATS Orange Line flex route also will offer veterans rides without charge to the May 24 event, said Kenneth Collier, Greene CATS director.

The Ohio Department of Veteran Services will offer rides from the parking lot of the Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. and a return trip after the event.

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